Retired professor’s $2.5 million gift to engineering is largest ever from faculty member

4 – minute read

Thomas M. Missimer recently retired from Florida Gulf Coast University’s U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering. But the former hydrogeology professor’s impact will continue to be felt for generations thanks to a $2.5 million contribution — the largest gift ever to FGCU from a faculty member.


Missimer and his wife, FGCU grad Maria Missimer, made this gift to the college’s Department of Bioengineering, Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering. The donation is designed to support student and faculty research projects, provide scholarship assistance to deserving students and endow a new professorship.

Maria and Thomas M. Missimer stand on a boardwalk on the FGCU campus
Maria and Thomas M. Missimer

Huzefa Kagdi, dean of the engineering college, said the Missimers’ gift will have “a profound and transformational effect” on the college and its mission.


“It will directly support students and faculty to pursue the highest levels of academic excellence, especially in the areas of civil engineering and environmental engineering,” Kagdi said. “Tom’s passion for research, scholarship and mentoring is emblematic in this contribution. He has set an inspirational benchmark for us with the largest gift coming from a faculty member at FGCU. On a personal note, I feel blessed and proud to call him a dear friend.”

For Tom Missimer, this gift solidifies a personal relationship with FGCU that goes back prior to the institution’s founding.


“I have had a long connection to FGCU before the site was selected for construction. As a consultant, I helped with getting the site selected and obtaining the environmental permits,” said Missimer. He worked for more than 35 years as a consultant in the areas of groundwater development, water management and contamination remediation before entering academia.

“In addition, I relate to the mission of FGCU,” he said. “A large part of the graduating student body each year is the first in their family to obtain a degree. I was also the first in my family to graduate from college.”


Missimer founded three consulting companies during his career before shifting gears and transitioning to higher education in 2011. He joined the faculty of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, where he served as a visiting professor for three years.


Missimer arrived at FGCU in June 2014 as a visiting professor. He became a full-time faculty member in January 2018, an eminent scholar in hydrology in 2019 and an executive-in-residence in 2022.  

Upon his retirement in January, he received the title professor emeritus. He continues to serve as president of Missimer Hydrological Services Inc., a groundwater consulting company he founded in 2011.


As author of more than 100 peer-reviewed journal papers, 11 books and 300 other publications, Missimer’s expertise speaks for itself. His long pre-academia career consulting in the management and technical sector provided the financial wherewithal to pursue his philanthropic interests. And he credits his experiences working closely with students in the classroom and in their research endeavors with sparking his desire to make a legacy gift to FGCU.

“My primary focus at FGCU was teaching at the graduate level and doing research with both undergraduate and graduate students. I always wanted to be a university professor, but it took me 38 years to make the change,” Missimer said.


“After a successful career in consulting, it was easy for me to make the transition to academia based on my economic position,” he said. “I greatly wish that the salaries of academics could be increased based on their impacts on the future of their students, not just on business models.”


Missimer said he is proud his wife has joined him in making their philanthropic gift to a university that is her alma mater and also an institution he helped shape. Maria Missimer is a partner in Lido Azul, a retail business based in Uruguay that sells hardware and construction supplies.

Maria and Thomas M. Missimer on the FGCU campus

“My wife is from Uruguay. She grew up under similar circumstances to me. We had no family wealth and needed to work hard to achieve our personal goals,” he said. “Her degree was in law enforcement and forensic science, and she graduated magna cum laude despite the fact that her native language was Spanish. She greatly appreciates the high number of Hispanic graduates at FGCU.”


He also hopes their gift will inspire other faculty members to give back to the institution where they teach and conduct research, contributing not just their time and talent but also their treasure.


“Many faculty members already give to FGCU but may not have the ability to contribute larger funding. However, to those faculty members that have had successful careers in industry or consulting, I would encourage them to create additional funded professorships,” said Missimer, an elected fellow of the Geological Society of America.


“This also applies to others in the community at large. If the college of engineering had six or more funded professorships, it would greatly benefit the students and assure continued funding,” he said.

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